Treatment of panic disorder with agoraphobia in an anxiety disorders clinic: factors influencing psychiatrists' treatment choices.
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The main objective of this report was to identify patient characteristics that led psychiatrists in an academic anxiety disorders clinic to make a decision about intensive treatment of patients with panic disorder with agoraphobia (PDA) with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) alone, CBT plus a high-potency benzodiazepine (CBT+BZ) or CBT combined with BZ and an antidepressant, fluoxetine (CBT+BZ+AD). On the basis of their clinical judgment and collaborative negotiation with the patient, psychiatrists chose one of the three treatment modalities for 102 PDA outpatients. Two stepwise logistic regressions were performed to explore pre-treatment patient characteristics the psychiatrists may have considered in choosing among these treatments. One regression examined the decision to add BZ to CBT, while the other examined the decision to add AD to CBT+BZ. Psychiatrists generally used combination treatments in patients with more severe PDA. CBT alone was a more likely choice for dominant anxiety-related cognitive phenomena. Patients with prominent panic attacks and somatic symptoms were more likely to be treated with CBT+BZ, while those who also had significant depressive symptoms and higher disability levels were more likely to receive CBT+BZ+AD. Patients in all three treatment groups showed significant reduction in symptoms during intensive treatment and reached similar end states. In a clinic setting where CBT is accepted as the basic treatment for PDA, psychiatrists added BZ to control prominent panic symptoms and added AD to elevate depressed mood and help cope with marked disability. These choices appear rational and resulted in substantial clinical improvement at the end of intensive treatment in the clinic.